Skip to main content

Joint Logistics by Design: Exploiting the momentum of the First Principles Review

Joint Logistics by Design: Exploiting the momentum of the First Principles Review

As a result of the recent First Principles Review (FPR), Defence underwent a significant restructure to more effectively design, acquire and sustain joint capabilities. The focus of the review was on ensuring that ‘Defence is fit for purpose and is able to deliver against its strategy with the minimum resources necessary.’[1] The restructure reduced service stovepipes in order to develop a more ‘Joint by Design’ Australian Defence Force (ADF). This article posits that the ADF should embrace the opportunity the restructure has presented and design a truly joint logistics system.

Australia is a middle power capable of defending our homeland and exerting minimal influence over the international system. As a middle power, the ADF enjoys the benefit of relatively consistent resourcing and commitment to maintain an appropriate size to meet the requirements directed in the Defence White Paper (DWP). The ADF is large enough to want strong single services capable of operating semi-independently or coalescing into a joint or coalition force, but is not sufficiently resourced to afford the capabilities required for relatively independent services. Enablers, such as specialist logistics and ISR capabilities, are expensive, hard to grow and are likely to exist in more than one service. Therefore, they need to be managed as a joint capability. Now is the time to reconsider how we raise, train and sustain ADF logistics capabilities and design a joint logistics system that has sufficient depth and density to respond to strategic requirements and meet the likely challenges of a future operating environment.

An outcome of the FPR was the establishment of the Australian Defence Force Headquarters

(ADFHQ) to support a more dedicated approach to managing ‘joint’ capabilities.[2] The establishment of the ADFHQ includes the appointment of the Chief of Joint Capabilities (CJC). The CJC, as a fifth Defence capability manager, commands and is accountable for military capabilities in the information war-fighting environment and military enabling services (logistics, health, education). The new Joint Capabilities Group (JCG) comprises the ADF’s core logistics and ISR enablers. The appointment of CJC and subsequent establishment of the JCG presents an opportunity to design a true joint logistics system responsible for delivering all theatre level logistics support.

The ongoing Australian Army Logistics Review is considering the relative merits of a more fulsome joint logistics system. Preliminary analysis has identified the opportunity to invest more logistics capability into the joint system, under command of Chief Joint Logistics (CJLOG) and CJC. Understandably, this option has been met with criticism and the idea has made some senior leaders uncomfortable. Investing single Service logistics capabilities into the joint environment has inherent risk to the Army; the land force will lose some control.

Some have argued that joint interdependence and the appropriate apportionment of tasks achieves the same effect without this risk. This line of argument suggests that the ADF needs more joint responsibilities as opposed to more joint units. The argument to maintain strong single Service enablers is valid when viewed solely as an operational C2 consideration; however, it falls short when considering the current duplication of capabilities across the three Services, hollowness in enablers, the FPR expectation to be joint by design and the enduring requirement to live within our means. Investing in a strong JCG should be seen as an opportunity to design a world class joint enabler system, without the requirement to decrease combat effectiveness.

Transitioning to a true joint logistics system will become even more important and relevant with the predicted future prevalence of robotics and autonomous systems. Technology such as ‘sense and respond’ logistics, uninhabited platforms and additive manufacturing and repair will need to be integrated into our logistics operations. While CJLOG is currently appointed as the ADF’s Strategic J4, the position does not have the command or control authority to drive a truly integrated joint logistics enterprise. The development of a joint logistics system, with more command and control authority for the Strategic J4, will enable more direct consideration of integration requirements and assist in the rapid adaption of the technology as it emerges.

Another consideration in support of the development of a true joint logistics system is the consequences of technology on the traditional four lines of logistics support. Recent exercises and experiments have seen the responsibilities of 17 Combat Service Support Brigade (17 CSS Bde) expand from traditional ‘third line’ support, to providing close support to tactical elements and general support to the theatre. This emerging requirement strengthens the argument for the establishment of a joint logistics organisation responsible for the provision of theatre level logistics external to the tactical ‘unit of action’. The logistics components of 17 CSS Bde could provide the organisational framework; however, to realise the true joint effect, the formation would need to transfer from Forces Command to CJLOG/CJC or, potentially, under command of the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJFHQ). A similar approach could be taken with the health elements of 17 CSS Bde transitioning to CJHLTH/CJC to form the core of a deployable theatre-level ADF health capability. Of course this would require buy in and supplementation from both Navy and the Air Force and would require CJC, CJLOG and CJHLTH to be empowered to provide C2 over joint capabilities. These options require a fundamental shift in the way we design, employ and sustain joint capabilities. Furthermore, it would require the development of a joint force generation system to ensure the ADF is joint by design and not by default.

A strong joint force needs a strong land force, but this should not be at the expense of developing a world class joint logistics system. The establishment of the ADFHQ provides momentum  for the development of a joint enabler capability, however it requires bold decisions, less risk aversion and trust amongst the Services. The time for ‘joint logistics by design’ is now, but is the ADF mature enough to manage the delicate interplay between competition and cooperation? This article has not provided solid answers to this question; however the ideas should stimulate the joint logistics debate.

[1] First Principles Review Website

[2] ADFHQ Website retrieved 16 Aug 17 from:

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

Using the Contribute page you can either submit an article in response to this or register/login to make comments.